Savvy travellers are increasingly opting for authenticity, especially when it comes to food, writes Megan Levy.
A holiday, for many, is about jetting into an exotic location, flopping down on a beach and sipping cocktails during a week-long stay at a resort.
But more and more travellers are seeking out meaningful, authentic international adventures, and mainstream travel companies are sitting up and taking notice.
It was a combination of the global financial crisis, cut-price airfares and the rise in social media that led many holidaying Australians to change their expectations, according to the managing director of Australian-based Intrepid Travel, James Thornton. He says many travellers, particularly young professionals, now prefer to sacrifice luxury for deeper travel experiences and go beyond the surface of a new place.
"Flop-and-drop holidays, where people sit on a beach and do very little, still have a place in the travel industry, but holidays that take you beyond the resort to really experience a destination are becoming increasingly popular," Thornton says.
"The global financial downturn has made people more mindful of how they spend their money and so it stands that authentic travel experiences will become more popular. Travelling on local transport, eating at street stalls and staying at small, locally owned accommodation is generally a more affordable way to travel."
At the same time, cut-price airfares mean that some Australians are taking multiple holidays each year, slipping in trips to more-exotic destinations such as Uzbekistan. And travellers who are savvy on social media want something distinctive or quirky to share with their multitudes of Twitter followers.
"Constant connectivity whilst on holiday is also having an influence on the rise of authentic travel experiences," Thornton says. "People want something unique and interesting to share." Using food as an example, he cites a general move away from Michelin-starred restaurants towards affordable experiences in the general food scene.
In Australia, there has been an explosion in the popularity of US-style mobile food trucks, such as the Taco Truck in Melbourne and Eat Art Truck in Sydney, and a trend towards more casual dining. It seems this is also what many people are looking for when they travel.
Last year, an Intrepid Travel survey of 100 people found that 56 per cent of respondents aged 25 to 44 wanted an authentic food experience when travelling. Local cuisine also was important when choosing a holiday destination for 65 per cent of respondents aged between 25 and 44.
It is with this in mind that Intrepid has launched a new range of food tours, Real Food Adventures, which bypass the overpriced tourist restaurants and instead deliver travellers to the street stalls of local vendors and restaurants to gain an authentic taste of a new destination.
Thornton says most food tours on the market are geared towards high-end culinary travel, which appeals to older travellers, but Intrepid's new food adventures are cheaper and designed to woo young professionals who are fuelling this shift towards casual dining.
The new food adventures, which last between eight and 14 days, take in countries such as Vietnam, Mexico, Spain, China, India and Turkey. Shorter trips, called Bite-size Breaks, last four to five days, while Urban Food Safaris consist of a food crawl through a city and last between two and four hours.
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